I’ve thought about writing down my personal story for years now. I’ve shared aloud my struggle in small group settings, in front of teen audiences, and even briefly last Friday with the women at MOPS (of all places). But I’ve never written it down. Written words feel so permanent. And I’m still somewhat uncomfortable with being permanently associated with such a dirty word as “porn.”
After all, I’m a mom of three wonderful children. I’m a daughter. I’m a wife… a pastor’s wife even. Oh, and I’m a female. So how on earth could an awful word like “porn” become a part of my story—my identity? Here is a bit of the backstory.
When I was 9 years old I found a PlayBoy magazine in a brown paper bag underneath the bench seat of my dad’s Chevy pickup truck. I can remember it so clearly—thumbing through the pages, feeling something strange inside, knowing I needed to hide what I was doing, hurt that my dad even had such a magazine. That was the beginning of porn for me. I remember it so vividly though I was so young; one confusing experience lit the fire that fanned into over a decade of struggle.
By the time I was 10 my parents divorced. I lived with my mom, and though she created a safe, loving home environment for my brother and me, there was one thing we lacked… we never, ever talked about sexuality. And so it was easy to hide my sexual struggles. My porn habit grew, fed by books I found in dark corners of the library, magazines and VHS tapes I found at my dad’s house, and occasional online searches in the rare instance I could find access to the internet (what a different world that was).
From 10 to 16 years of age my outward identity was tied up in being a good kid. I felt like I had to keep it together especially since my parent’s marriage had fallen apart. Top notch grades, regular church attendance, student athlete, obedient daughter, but inside I was tormented by the demons of pornography. Hidden sin leads to isolation, and I felt incredibly alone until one Sunday morning when I finally felt compelled to do something about my sin.
I confessed. It must’ve really caught Mrs. Peterson (my high school English teacher) off guard when I came to her in the parking lot after church one morning shaking and sobbing and talking about my “porn addiction.” After all, I was one of her star students. And porn was rarely (read NEVER) mentioned in our conservative Christian community at that time. Mrs. P must’ve been blindsided by my confession, but she didn’t show it. She hugged me tight and offered to hear more about my struggle. Confessing to Mrs. P was my first step to freedom.
From that day on I recognized the value of being honest and open about my struggle. I confessed to my high school boyfriend (who is now my husband). I shared with the girls in my church small group. In my first year of Bible college, I even spoke with the Resident Director about my story. Whenever I spoke openly about my addiction, I was shocked to find how many other WOMEN were silently struggling as well.
So I guess that’s why I’m writing this entry today. I guess that’s why I speak up at every chance I get. Truth leads to freedom, and the truth is… porn isn’t just a guy thing.
Women are sexual beings too. We have fantasies. Like men, our brains release dopamine when we see visual stimuli that appeal to us. We are curious. We too are bombarded by sexual imagery nearly 24/7 whether scrolling through Instagram posts or thumbing through the pages of Cosmo at the hair salon. In this day and age, you don’t have to find porn—it finds you, and porn doesn’t discriminate based on gender.
My favorite resource on this subject is an organization called Fight The New Drug. In one of their online articles, “Do Women Get Addicted toWatching Porn?” they note that recent studies have found about half of young adult women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable and 1/3 of young women reported using porn. The number of female viewers hasn’t reached the level of male viewers, but the data shows percentages are rising.
It’s heartbreaking to read those stats, and it can be intimidating too. But let’s not let it be. Instead of shying away from this tough topic, let’s get educated and be prepared to “run to the fight” as Brett called us to do during our last meeting. For my own daughter, I’ve decided I’ll talk to her about porn in much the same way I talk with my sons about it. I’ll be honest about my own struggle. I won’t treat her differently if I find out she’s looked up porn. I’ll foster a home environment of openness and grace. I’ll be a trusted lifeline if she ever feels trapped in addiction.
At 22 years of age I finally found “sobriety” in my porn addiction. It is a long, hard battle, and I still fight temptation every day. But I’ve found freedom from porn, and I only found it once I was willing to speak up about my struggle. Struggle in the open, my friends—not in secret. And let’s empower the young women in our lives to do the same.